February 18’s broadcast of WWE Friday Night SmackDown saw Sami Zayn capture his third Intercontinental Championship from Shinsuke Nakamura. The win culminates a long, strange trip Zayn’s character has taken since losing the title to Big E. Let’s examine the storage quest of Sami Zayn in WWE
The Strange Quest of Sami Zayn in WWE
— WWE (@WWE) February 19, 2022
Loss and Transformation:
After losing the IC championship to Big E in a lumberjack match on December 25, 2020, Zayn began to transform. He became suspicious of conspiracies amongst WWE’s powers that be that had robbed him of the belt. The comic storyline saw Zayn commission a documentary film crew to follow him around the halls of WWE’s venues, trying to capture any byzantine plots afoot.
This brought real life best friend and longtime ring rival Kevin Owens into the story. Owens eliminated Zayn at 2021’s Elimination Chamber, which in Zayn’s fevered mind implicated Owens in “the conspiracy”. Their feud was powered by Owens’s desire to impart some sense into Zayn and get him to leave off his wild suspicions. Internet personality Logan Paul became involved in the conflict between the two. Zayn was initially hopeful that Paul would see his side of the story. Paul did not take to the conspiracy and became an ally of Owens’s, instead. Owens and Zayn They faced off at WrestleMania 37, with Owens victorious. Their feud was settled for once and all in a Last Man Standing qualifying match for 2021’s Money in the Bank on July 2’s Friday Night SmackDown.
Coming Full Circle
Zayn remained a fixture of SmackDown as 2021 wound down and 2022 began, heckling others with his grandiosely self-appointed status as the blue brand’s “elder statesman.” Once again, his ire turned to a celebrity guest when Zayn became angered at “Jackass Forever” star Johnny Knoxville’s intention to enter the Royal Rumble. In retaliation, Zayn crashed the film’s premiere. He eventually eliminated Knoxville at the Rumble on January 29.
Reclaiming the Intercontinental Championship brings Zayn full circle. In the midst of weightier storylines like Roman Reigns’s Tribal Chief saga and feud with Brock Lesnar, Zayn weaves in and out of the action as a wandering fool figure who takes himself far too seriously to be regarded in kind by others. Whether he finds himself in a reluctant mic battle with Lesnar or telling off short-lived SmackDown faction Hit Row, Zayn’s comic gifts keep his character consistently self-obsessed, paranoid, temperamental, and his journey a touch surreal.
SmackDown’s balance of Reigns’ mostly stellar dramatic angle as a megalomaniacal but secretly insecure champion, and Smackdown’s more raucously kid-friendly comedic angles is mostly an even one. Poised on the fulcrum of this balance is Zayn. Zayn’s gusto for the absurd is robust, and will surely set the tone for a comedic mid-card IC championship race as his character seeks to hold onto the title he feels he was cheated out of.
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